Kari Lake and the Fake Drag Panic of 2022
Plus: The professor who lost his teaching contract after officiating at a same-sex wedding.
JVL is out this week, so today it’s Tim with a drag queen Ru’s letter eleganza extravaganza. Enjoy!
1. Kari Lake: Fag Hag in MAGA Drag
In Arizona last weekend, prominent Phoenix-area drag queen Barbra Seville (great name) spilled all of the tea about Kari Lake, the MAGA frontrunner for the GOP’s gubernatorial nomination in the swing state.
Seville decided to go public after Lake began engaging in the Great Drag Queen Moral Panic of 2022 for campaign purposes. The big reveal? Until Kari Lake started putting on fake lashes and orange MAGA makeup, she was just another wine mom who couldn’t get enough Drag Queen realness.
As Seville deliciously told the Arizona Republic: “She’s friends with drag queens. She’s had her kid in front of a drag queen. I’ve done drag in her home for her friends and family. She would come to shows constantly.” (Emphasis mine.) Seville said she even performed for a baby shower at Lake’s request.
“She’s come to my parties and been asked to leave because door people thought she was too intoxicated to remain on premises,” Seville wrote.
Ahhh—now this makes sense. Kari Lake is a fag hag! And not the good kind! Every gay knows her—the type who is desperate to get away from her suburban life and let loose with the girlies, but who always seems to get just a bit too excited. These gay-bar frequenters are kinda like the New Year's Eve amateurs who get overserved and lose their minds, which makes going out to the club for the ball drop a living hell. Avoid them at all costs.
And Seville is, of course, not the only witness.
Lake had several social media posts at drag functions, including this racy Instagram pic from 2014 when she attended New York Pride during her family vacation to the Big Apple. According to the comment below the photo, Lake’s daughter apparently didn’t enjoy the festivities as much as mom did.
On the same trip, Lake also swung by CNN for some photos with her young kids.
Looking rather chummy with the Enemy of the People, Kari!
None of this should come as a surprise, of course. Lake was a local news anchor in Arizona who palled around with the state’s bipartisan elite. She registered as a Democrat in 2008 in order to support Barack Obama in the Arizona primary after having donated to John Kerry in 2004. As recently as 2016, she proposed mass amnesty for every immigrant in the United States illegally, which she pitched as a “humane and fair” solution. In 2020 she was pro-mask and government lockdown!
Kari Lake is no more MAGA qween than Yvie Oddly is Dolly Parton.
This new 2020 election-fraud-pushing Deportation Diva act isn’t real. It’s a skilled TV performer doing a new type of drag—with one key difference from the original.
When Barbra Seville and the professional drag queens perform, they are offering their audience a fantasy and staging a celebration of human charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent.
Kari’s MAGA drag act is much darker.
To be successful, she will do whatever it takes, including ripping the very fabric of our democracy. Just as long as it helps her and Donald Trump gain power.
So hopefully, Arizona voters will listen to Barbra Seville—and force Kari to sashay away.
2. The Great Drag Queen Moral Panic of 2022
Clearly, the Kari Lakes of the world, if they had their druthers, would not be running a campaign on Drag Queen Story Hour fear-mongering. Lake is merely grabbing onto “the discourse” in right-wing media, which over the past year has become re-enamoured with targeting LGBT+ Americans. Their abnormal new thing is the particular focus on drag.
Matt Yglesias asks, What’s behind all this?
The answers offered in his replies are interesting. I’d put them in three buckets:
A. Genuine Anti-Gay Sentiment Rising Like a Cicada. Yglesias himself posits that conservatives are “casting around for some way to leverage their winning hand on the trans sports issue into a much broader rollback of LGBT rights.” He flags a Heritage Foundation fellow saying the no-longer-quiet part extra loud. Tyler Dinucci added that it’s “seven years of pent up anger” over losing ground on this issue paired with “excitement that being outwardly vitriolic towards LGBT people could be a winning issue again.”
I think this is certainly part of it. The anti-gay sentiment on the right didn’t just disappear when gay marriage became legal. It merely went dormant until there was a more politically palatable way to express it. For a while, that meant focusing on trans issues (bathrooms, sports), but recently the cons sensed that they had found another angle—the “sexualization/indoctrination” of children, which brings drag queens, gay teachers, and the like back into the mix.
My sense is that this remains a political loser for conservatives in the medium term. But that doesn’t do much to soothe the pain that LGBT kids and families are going to experience in the short term, particularly (but not exclusively) in red America.
B. Pure Political Opportunism: Andrew Sullivan calls it a deliberate strategy led by Chris Rufo et al. to take a few racy videos as representative of a major national trend, and cynically create a broader culture-war campaign to further stigmatize the right’s political opponents with no underlying policy objectives.
While it is definitely a deliberate strategy, I would disagree with Sullivan on the lack of policy objectives—the goals are apparent in book bannings and “Don’t Say Gay” laws in various state legislatures—but he’s right to note that there is more emoting and gamesmanship going on here than anything. What else are we to make of Sohrab Ahmari’s proposal during his debate with David French that the solution to Drag Queen Story Hour was to hold a hearing? A hearing!
C. Backlash to the New Culture of Fabulousness: Many conservatives replied to Yglesias, too, with varying degrees of acerbity. They claimed that the left-wing culture that has lionized drag, encouraged DQSH, and given greater cultural visibility to people who are gender nonconforming is to blame for the right-wing reaction. In other words, What did you expect? To conservatives, the new LGBT visibility seems more like ubiquity—or, put another way, dominance—and thus must be rolled back.
As Jamie Kirchick pointed out on our podcast last week, the number of LGBT-identifying youth is skyrocketing in a way that is increasing agitation among heteros. Press reports about the trendiness of gender fluidity among kids and horror stories of trans “desistance” have people spooked. And I’ve heard from well-meaning, liberal parents who are uncomfortable with a new, unfamiliar vocabulary that their teenage kids are demanding they adhere to in order to address these different types of gender expression.
On top of that, the pronoun usage, the big lesbian kiss in Buzz Lightyear, the Northrop-Grumman Pride Parade, and all the rest of it feels very in-your-face in a way that is triggering the bona-fide homophobes in bucket A.
When you combine the uneasy straights concerned about the brave new gender-nonbinary world with the newly emboldened bigots and throw into the mix all the culture war fodder being provided on social media, you can understand why this issue is coming to a head now. And why drag queens make for a big glittering, sequined target for their fears.
This is not to excuse the hateful speech of the anti-drag queen crowd (obviously), nor is it to minimize the reality that politicians like Lake are launching these attacks solely out of naked ambition. But their bad-faith actions don’t make the underlying impetus for the backlash any less real. Confronting it requires acknowledging what is happening in the real world and being gracious when dealing with people of good will who are trying to navigate it, while not letting the bigots create a dangerous culture of hate as the drag queen culture war boils over.
Easier said than done.
3. Gay Calvinball
Over at the Huffington Post, Jonathan Cohn has a deeply reported look at a Christian college in Michigan where Joe Kuilema, a brave professor and person of faith, lost a teaching contract because he officiated a gay wedding.
Among a number of interesting parts of the story that are relevant to our topic of the day: A more fervent backlash to the increasingly LGBT-friendly elements at Kuilema’s school began just recently, and followed a brief period of good feelings.
A very real possibility is that Calvin could evolve over the next few years so that it has fewer students like Sweda and fewer professors like Kuilema, creating a campus and academic environment both more aligned with CRC teachings and more insulated from the culture around it. Universities like Bob Jones, Liberty and Oral Roberts offer a possible glimpse of that future.
They have never had Calvin’s reputation for intellectual diversity. And although those schools have LGBTQ students, over the years many have spoken about the shame and stigma they feel, even instances of abuse, while experts and advocates worry about the toll on the students’ mental health. This was the biggest concern I heard over and over again from former staff who worked with LGBTQ students ― their fears for students struggling with issues of identity and sexual orientation, maybe for the first time and perhaps without sympathetic families.
“There’s no such thing as just giving a philosophical and theological message like this without affecting someone’s well-being, because people internalize it,” said Kelsey Colburn, who was coordinator of student success and sexuality programming from 2019 to 2021. “If you’re telling queer young people … that [they] shouldn’t be able to be in relationships, then they end up wrestling with that themselves internally and thinking maybe I’m not OK, maybe there’s something wrong with me, maybe God doesn’t want me this way. And that can lead to severe mental health problems. I’ve seen it.”
As for Kuilema, he has a wife, a toddler and two baby twins. For all of the recent discussion about morality and student well-being, Scripture and institutional integrity, Kuilema is still a working parent with bills to pay. When I called him last week, he was on the job market, looking for a faculty position at another institution.